Characters

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 316

Illustration of PDF document

Download The Eunuch Study Guide

Subscribe Now

The main characters are Phaedria, a young Athenian man of good family, and Thaïs, a courtesan he loves. Chaerea, Phaedria’s younger brother, and Parmeno, Phaedria’s slave, also play important roles. Laches, the brothers’ father, figures significantly although he is seldom onstage. Thraso, a wealthy, arrogant soldier, and his “parasite” (a sycophant associated with a higher-status person) Gnatho also complicate the plot. Pamphila, a young woman who grew up with Thais, is central to many plot twists, especially regarding her identity as a free citizen or a slave. Chremes is her brother.

The diverse statuses of Athenians and people of nearby city-states are important features of The Eunuch. Well-to-do families had slaves, who were usually brought to Athens from different areas, and slave status often effectively blocked marriage with a citizen or wealthier person. Phaedria’s love for Thaïs and his dedication to helping her restore Pamphila to her rightful place and her brother’s care are two qualities that mark his character’s good nature. In addition, he must make the difficult decision to punish his brother for raping Pamphila, showing that such behavior was not considered acceptable toward a slave. While Thaïs is of lower status because she is a courtesan, she is also the head of her own establishment; while she manipulates Thraso, it is toward a positive end, to rescue the woman who is as close as a sister. Her innate goodness is redemptive and can make her a suitable partner for a higher-born man.

The individualization of the characters, in general, is not pronounced. They are largely variants of the stock characters from Greek theater that were adapted by the Roman playwrights. Gnatho and Thraso, the fawning flatterer and the boastful soldier to whom he attaches himself, are one typical pair. Similarly, Parmeno embodies the clever slave who helps his less-intelligent or less-wordly master navigate complicated situations.

Characters Discussed

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 644

Thaïs

Thaïs (THAY-ihs), a Rhodian courtesan living in Athens. She is wooed by Phaedria, whom she loves, and by Thraso, a braggart captain. Thaïs encourages Thraso’s love because she wishes him to make her a present of a young slave girl. This girl, Pamphila, had been reared as Thaïs’ sister. In fact, she is an Athenian citizen. Thaïs wants to restore the girl to Chremes, Pamphila’s brother. After Thraso gives her Pamphila, Thaïs goes to Thraso’s house. She quarrels with him and returns home to find that Pamphila has been ravished by Chaerea, who entered Thaïs’ house disguised as a eunuch. Pamphila is restored to Chremes and promised in marriage to Chaerea, who loves her. Thaïs reaffirms her love for Phaedria.

Phaedria

Phaedria (FEED-ree-uh), the son of Laches, who loves Thaïs. Hurt because Thaïs excludes him from her house while admitting Thraso, Phaedria listens to her explanation and agrees to leave Athens for two days until Thraso has given Pamphila to the courtesan. Unable to stay away so long, Phaedria returns to find that his brother Chaerea has disgraced him by attacking Pamphila.

Thraso

Thraso (THRAY-soh), a rich, pompous, and conceited soldier, a foreigner who formerly had been in the service of an Asiatic king. He is used by both Thaïs and his parasite Gnatho for their own ends. When, after being deserted by Thaïs, he asks that Pamphila be returned to him, his demand is refused. When he takes a gang of thugs to storm Thaïs’ house and recover Pamphila, he is thwarted by the revelation that Pamphila is an Athenian citizen and, therefore, cannot be held as a slave.

Chaerea

Chaerea (KEE-reh-uh), Phaedria’s younger brother, a sixteen-year-old youth. Seeing Pamphila on the street as she is being taken to Thaïs’ house, he falls in love with her. With the aid of Parmeno, he impetuously enters Thaïs’ house in the garb of a eunuch and ravishes Pamphila. After Pamphila’s identity is revealed, Chaerea receives his father’s permission to marry her.

Parmeno

Parmeno (PAHR-meh-noh), Phaedria’s outspoken and intelligent servant. Having been sent by Phaedria to deliver to Thaïs a eunuch and an Ethiopian girl, Parmeno meets Chaerea. He sympathizes with Chaerea’s infatuation with Pamphila and agrees to introduce him into Thaïs’ house disguised as the eunuch.

Gnatho

Gnatho (NA-thoh), Thraso’s parasite. Gnatho is a scheming cynic who detests his patron. At the end, with a view to his continuing prosperity, Gnatho asks Thaïs and Phaedria not to have Thraso banished for his effrontery in besieging Thaïs’ house. He persuades them to allow Thraso to continue to pay court to Thaïs, because Thraso’s money can supply luxuries that Phaedria could not otherwise afford.

Chremes

Chremes (KRAY-meez), a young Athenian, the brother of Pamphila.

Dorus

Dorus (DOH-ruhs), an old eunuch. Phaedria had bought Dorus to present to Thaïs. Chaerea enters Thaïs’ house in Dorus’ clothes.

Laches

Laches (LA-keez), an old Athenian, the father of Phaedria and Chaerea. When Laches learns that Pamphila is an Athenian citizen, he approves his son’s marriage to her because he is glad to save the family from disgrace.

Antipho

Antipho (AN-tih-foh), the young man to whom Chaerea relates what he had done in Thaïs’ house.

Pamphila

Pamphila (PAM-fihl-uh), a sixteen-year-old girl. The sister of Chremes, Pamphila had been kidnaped while a child and sold into slavery in Rhodes. She had been reared there as Thaïs’ sister.

Sophrona

Sophrona (so-froh-nuh), an old nurse in Thaïs’ household.

Pythias

Pythias (PIH-thee-uhs) and

Dorias

Dorias (DOH-ree-uhs), Thaïs’ female attendants.

Sanga

Sanga (SAN-guh), Thraso’s cook.

Donax

Donax (DOH-naks),

Simalio

Simalio (sih-MA-lee-oh), and

Syriscus

Syriscus (sih-RIHS-kus), servants of Thraso. Thraso takes them with him to storm Thaïs’ house.

Bibliography

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 218

Forehand, Walter E. Terence. Boston: Twayne, 1985. Examines The Eunuch from the standpoint of plot, structure, and theme. Discusses the eight most important characters in the play. Includes extensive notes and an annotated bibliography.

Goldberg, Sander M. Understanding Terence. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1986. A study of the playwright. Includes an index to passages and an analysis of The Eunuch in the chapter titled “Contaminatio.” The bibliography contains numerous citations to foreign-language publications.

Hunter, R. L. The New Comedy of Greece and Rome. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1985. Sees the play as an exploration of male-female relationships. In a dramatic reversal, a woman protagonist attains power over men. The three primary male characters are also thematically important, however, since they represent various aspects of love.

Lowe, J. C. B. “The Eunuchus: Terence and Menander.” Classical Quarterly 33, no. 2 (1983): 428-444. An attempt to resolve the question of Terence’s intent by examining the ways in which he altered his source in Menander. Argues that an answer can be found in Terence’s development of two key scenes.

Sandbach, F. H. The Comic Theatre of Greece and Rome. London: Chatto & Windus, 1977. Both the chapter on Menander and the chapter on Terence include observations about The Eunuch. Discusses Terence’s alterations and additions to the works of Menander, his Greek source.

Previous

Summary

Next

Themes